what diffuser to buy for canon speedlite

gsd

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I have a canon rebel xti and I am purchasing a Canon Speedlite 580EX II. I will use the camera for indoor gymnastics with poor lighting in the building, indoor dance recitals with poor lighting and indoor or outdoor events with family and kids. Should I purchase a diffuser? This may be a silly question, but I am not sure what it does. If it would provide a softer light I may need one. Could someone please tell me what a diffuser is used for and what one they would recommend? Any books anyone would recommend on flash photography? Thank you.
 

Tiberius47

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A diffuser spreads the light around, helping it to bounce off nearby surfaces before lighting the subject. Unless there are nearby surfaces, this bounce will not happen. All it will do is reduce the strength of the light from the flash (because some of the light is being sent off in different directions).

Your best bet to soften the light is to use a cobra hood type of thing. Don't ask me where to buy it from, because I have no idea. I made my own. Just get a piece of white plastic that is bendable, and cut it to shape so it makes a shape like a cobra's hood that attaches to the flash. Then, you can aim the light upwards and the hood will bounce it forawrds, and also makes a larger area for the light to come from. This will soften the light.

be warned, however, that this will seriously reduce the range of your flash. Not all the light will bounce off the hood (some will go through), and spreading the light out like that will reduce the range as well.

This image will show you what it looks like...

200710we_softltcollage-thumb.jpg
 
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Thank you everyone for your great answers!
 

Big Mike

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There are many flash accessory products on the market. Some of them can be quite useful and some of them...not so much.

They real key is for you to understand light and what the flash is doing.

The softness of light (falling on a subject) is a result of the size of the source and the relative distance from the subject. Large and close will mean a softer light.

The flash head is relatively small, so direct flash isn't soft...and when coming from the direction of the camera, it can be flat as well. If you bounce the flash off of the ceiling or a wall etc. then that surface becomes the source and the light is much softer.

Many of the flash accesories are meant to be used when you are bouncing the flash. Some of them spread the light all over, allowing it to bounce off of many surfaces and also send some directly to the subject. This can be great when there are suitable surfaces to bounce off of....but it's quite wasteful when there isn't anything to bounce off of.

There is no one 'best' accessory...some work better than others in different situations.

Also, it can be very helpful to have a good understanding of exposure. Then you can control the flash exposure and maybe balance it with ambient exposure etc.
 

tirediron

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The nice thing about flash accessories is you can make your own. Any translucent bottle will make a great diffuser, and reflectors can be as simple as using an elastic band to hold a piece of white card stock onto the head of your flash.
 

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